Ten–No, Fifteen Spooky Things We Learned From American Horror Story Coven Episode Four, “Fearful Pranks Ensue”

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Better late than never. The reveals and new characters have been coming so quickly, we picked a really bad season of American Horror Story to slip behind in our episode coverage! So, without further ado, let’s dive into the list, which we tried to pare down to ten but would have left out too much information, so the hell with it… fifteen it is.

Who doesn’t love a surprise?

 

1.  Well, so much for The Minotaur being “this season’s Bloody Face”* At the very least, the Minotaur–or Bastien, as Marie Laveau called him–is out of commission for a while. Fiona dispatched him in the greenhouse …off camera. Took care of him pretty goddamned fast, too; in the scene where she’s asking for Cordelia’s help with the badly injured Queenie, Fiona wasn’t any more rumpled than she’d been when she discovered Queenie. His head –still living– got delivered to Cornrow City in a cardboard box by Spalding (“Some freak dropped it off and didn’t say a word”). This did not have a beneficial effect on Marie Laveau‘s already-serious resentment towards Fiona.

2. Kyle’s not home. No Kyle. Zoe realized, sadly, that he’s just a collection of sewed-together frat guy parts, with Kyle’s head on top. With a heavy heart, Violet Zoe makes him a snack with rat poison in it… but in the time she took to put his last meal together, he vanished. On Halloween night, where he’s going to blend in.

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3. Fiona was able to somehow breathe life into Queenie when Cordelia told her that Queenie’s heart had stopped. If this is one of “The Seven Wonders” that a Supreme must demonstrate before it becomes official, Zoe and Misty are definitely in contention.

Me? I was a monster.

 

4. We saw in the heartbreaking cold open that Marie Laveau can summon and command the dead, if some serious revenge is called for. These aren’t your mainstream zombies that want to eat you and then you wake up wanted to eat people. They want to rip their master’s enemies apart limb from limb when summoned. They can also use tools, unlike mainstream standard zombies. This season, the cold opens just keep topping each other; the scene where Laveau gave those evil, racist assholes the fate they deserved was not only satisfying, but perfectly executed. I especially like the confederate soldier voodoo zombie with the bayonet – and the shot of Laveau in the featured image for this piece.

I must confess, I’ve always enjoyed our little talks together… particularly since you lost your tongue.

 

5. According to Cordelia, Madison couldn’t have been the next Supreme; one of the hallmarks of a rising Supreme is excellent health, and Madison had a heart murmur. If you didn’t catch Jessica Lange’s oh shit! facial expression the first time you watched, it’s priceless enough to re-watch for that alone.

6. Hank is not only a cheater, he’s a cold-blooded killer. In an extremely upfront way.

Yeah, their blood. I used it to paint my day room brick-red.

 

7. The Council is in town! The council is composed of Myrtle Snow (you remember her- she didn’t have much screen time, but definitely made an impression in the season premiere), Quentin (who Fiona greets, not unkindly, as a “vicious old queen”), and the plain, monotone Pembroke. Nan summoned them because she couldn’t hear Madison anymore and was afraid she was dead.

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8. The first rule of Witches Council is never talk about the Wi– whoop, sorry, wrong secretive group!  We find out that the Council on Witchcraft assembles “only under the gravest of circumstances”.

9. We learned another very important law of The Counsel: the penalty for inflicting grievous bodily harm on a fellow descendant of Salem is …death. By fire!

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10. Spalding’s batshit rituals (ar the start of act one. he was hosting an elaborate tea party in the attic, with just him and what looked like 100  at last china dolls dressed to the nines).** just seemed eccentric (and hilarious) at the start of the episode. It started being not even mildly amusing when they gave us the reveal that Spalding had NOT in fact buried Madison as Fiona instructed him to, but had added her body to his doll collection. Forget the fact that he’s wearing a baby bonnet; creepier yet was the fact that though he’d obviously dressed her up (with a strategically-placed, pretty scarf to hide her slashed throat), she was just wearing her bra and panties.

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11. Myrtle really, REALLY hates Fiona. Fiona’s not too fond of her either, but Myrtle has hated her for roughly 40 years – mainly because she figured out Fiona did something terrible to Anna Leigh (murder, specifically), back in 1971, followed shortly by Spalding being discovered with his tongue laying on the bathroom floor a couple of feet away from him as he lay yelling in horrible pain (and a spray of blood on the mirror …after Myrtle enchanted it to speak only the truth. Also, Fiona was a mean-spirited little bitch to Myrtle. Fiona also sort of took off (all over the world; I think the word Myrtle used was “jet-setting”) after being officially named the Supreme, and didn’t do any of the paperwork (three unsigned ‘Winter Petitions’) or participation in official witch duties and meetings that a Supreme is supposed to.  The last forty years she’s thought that Fiona didn’t deserve to be the Supreme, and now she want to get her convicted by the council and burned at the stake ASAP.

Tonight I’m gonna let the whole world in, get a good look at me.

 

12. We also learned via flashback (1971) that  Spalding voluntarily cut out his own tongue to protect Fiona. The night before he was to testify officially, he sent young Fiona note to meet him in some upstairs bathroom. He thanks he politely for coming, then told her, “These are my last words, Miss Fiona. I have always loved you.” Then he used a straight razor to slice his tongue out. Maybe Myrtle should have looked around at dinner earlier that night to make sure that Spalding wasn’t, oh, standing directly the fuck behind her before confiding to a friend that she put a spell on his tongue so he could speaking nothing but the truth.

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13. Unfortunately for Cordelia, she has a low alcohol tolerance (though more than three shots of Maker’s Mark and I’d start feeling like I might need to run to the nearest ladies room to puke, too).  She was enjoyed a nice Halloween night out for cocktails with Fiona, and they were even getting along fine. After she was done being violently sick she went to splash some water on her face, and got taken off guard by a hooded, robed figure in black who tossed sulphuric acid at her face… right in her eyes. She shrieks in horror and pain at the top of her lungs, as loud as… well, probably as loudly as any of us would if we were minding our own business in what we thought was a safe restroom and had blinding acid tossed directly in our eyes. Eeeeek.

14. In yet another stunningly-lensed flashback, we learn that after over a decade of bloodshed and heartbreak, Marie Laveau  (Angela Basset ROCKING a Pam Grier-style early 70s ‘fro) sat down across from Anna Leigh Leighton and an actual peace treaty was brokered between the Salem Witches and the Voodoo Witches in 170, 1971 at the latest. “They had their territory, we had ours,” says Chantal, Marie’s closest (human) friend. Neither side crossed into the others. “No more bloodshed at one another’s hands. The rest of the world was cruel enough.” (Hear hear).

Is your seatbelt fastened?

 

15. Chantal was telling Marie Laveau this because Laveau was going to do something that shattered the decades-long truce (apparently sending them the Minotaur’s/her former lover’s head in a box, probably no good to her without his corresponding body –which I assume the witches burned, dismembered, or otherwise destroyed–was the last straw). This plan involved elaborate chalk drawings on the floor,  baskets of extremely substantial snakes,* what looked like an old noose or series of knots, and the sacrifice of one unfortunate snake (we saw a blood-soaked rooster head in the next episode in a continuation of the same scene).  Yup, she’s summoning what looks to be at least twenty her zombie slaves to attack her enemies again. This time they include the fat racist from the prologue, a decayed bride, and in my favorite reveal of the night–actually, maybe the most frightening sight so far of the season– Delphine LaLaurie’s three (un)dead daughters. Marie opens the door to what she assumes to be trick-or-treaters and is greeted by the sight of their swaying, absolutely ghastly corpses standing on her doorstep.

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Stray thoughts:

  • The Academy sure had a lot more students back in 1971.
  • If you were in charge of handling the trick-or-treaters on Halloween night… well, I don’t know about you, but I’d damn sure check the peephole after an ominous, measured pounding on the door like that.
  • The last official witch-burning decreed by The Council was in 1926.
  • The final shot of the episode where the camera tracked back and back to reveal the veritable army of Laveau’s shambling zombie slaves just took my breath away, and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Halloween cliff-hanger.
  • Ryan Murphy has very recently teased that the season finale will include the “Test of the Seven Wonders” that a Supreme must demonstrate to the Council in order to officially be declared. In this episode, we heard during a dinner conversation that two of the seven wonders were pyrokinesis and transmutation (Fiona “aced” them both).  You’re probably already well aware the first is the ability to start fires with your mind; the second is defined by Google as “the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form”. That sounds like it’s going to be quite interesting to see…Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 3.07.47 AM

*In several interviews to promote the season, Ryan Murphy said that Season 3 would feature two “Big Bads” – The Minotaur and The Axeman. The jury’s still out on The Axeman – we do have a theory that connects The Axeman to something shocking Fiona did, but that’s for later.

**There was something about that first scene that just made me giggle; maybe the matter-of-fact way Denis O’Hare played it, like it was a completely normal way to relax after he was off duty and in his quarters. Put on antique, quaint record of innocent little music? Check. Pour tea carefully for dolls at table? Check.  Get out fancy lace napkin and prepare to–hey, is that someone arguing downstairs? Guess I should get dressed and go see what’s up.

***Wonder who in the cast has a phobia of snakes (if anyone)? For Angela Bassett’s sake, I sure hope she’s not scared of them (since she seems to have all the snake-handling scenes). If she is scared of them (say, the way I’m scared of spiders; unless the job paid well enough for me to retire very comfortably on, and involved a large supply of Xanax, I’m not even sure I could pick them up, let alone let them crawl on any part of me) then my respect for her acting ability just hit a new high, because she remains regal and composed in all her scenes with live snakes.

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Ten Unsettling Things We Learned From American Horror Story Coven Episode 3, “The Replacements” (SPOILERS)

Note: Yep, I’m aware this is the Episode 3 piece and that Episode 5 will have aired by the time I post ‘Ten Things’ on Episode 4. Better late than never, and I’m hustling to catch up to get things current, even though an avalanche of “Things We Learned’ will be crashing down all around us while I get up to date. I hope you’ll still get a kick out of some part of these slightly tardy pieces, late or not).

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The original adjective I was going to use in the title was ‘disturbing’, then I realized I’d better save it for later when things got really disturbing. Because if you know American Horror Story, then you know Murphy and Falchuck are only getting warmed up.

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The accompanying sound effect for this in a well-done comic book version would be: SSSSHHHUK!

I have a little surprise for you.

1. Fiona killed the Supreme (who also happened to be her mentor)  before her, Anna Leigh, in 1971. “As I get stronger, you …get ...weaker,“* Fiona tells her, before almost casually cutting Anna Leigh’s throat with a flick her wrist …and a very sharp knife. I’m pretty sure her facial expression didn’t even change. It turns out Spalding saw the whole thing, unfortunately (for him).

SIDEBAR:  I think they should have tried a little harder when it came to casting young Fiona. The actress has Lange’s speech patterns and manner nailed down, but doesn’t even resemble Jessica Lange when she was in her early 20s (or at any age).  They’ve got the blonde hair, but the style looks like it’s more from the present day than 1971. Lange was much more beautiful in her 20s (and 30s, and 40s, and 50s) than the actress playing her. Emma Roberts looks more feasible as a young version of Lange, and she doesn’t have much of a resemblance either. I didn’t expect a dead ringer, but they dropped the ball enough on this that it was actually distracting in all her scenes.

2. We’re pretty sure what he saw is directly responsible for him losing his tongue (episode 4 has aired since I organized this list; now we know it – though if Myrtle hadn’t enchanted his vocal chords to tell nothing but the truth, he probably would have kept his tongue).

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3. Misty Day is lonely. Early in the episode she lays on her bed with Kyle (who wears his usual thousand-yard-stare), listening to “Sara” by Fleetwood Mac —click here for the lyrics, some definitely plaintive– and comments that Stevie Nicks didn’t really find her voice until she found her tribe, and looks suddenly wistful. “That’s the thing. Can’t be your best self until you find your tribe. …I’m still looking for mine,”  she finishes sadly. Misty didn’t want Kyle to leave her, and she wanted Zoe to stay, too. Anyone else start to get nervous when it got physical and looked like they might both start pulling him in opposite directions?

What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?

 

4. Taking Kyle back to his mom (who seemed likeable enough at first, smoking a little weed and not stuck up or unfriendly) turned out to be a horrible idea–not that Zoe had any way of knowing, she was trying to be compassionate. It turned out that Kyle’s mom had been molesting him since her husband “left them”. It didn’t appear to be consensual–like, not at all— and was very hard to watch. Which leads us to…

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5. Stay out of Kyle’s “personal space”. Unless he makes the first move–like he’s done more than once with Zoe when he tentatively reached out to touch, then stroke, her hair– just stay the hell away. He got upset and made an angry animal noise when Misty got a little too touchy-feely when she was trying to get him to stay. When his mother started touching him in a very un-motherly way one too many times, he snapped and completely lost his shit; he also spoke his first word since being resurrected: NO!  Kyle ends up caving her head in (literally, her face was pretty much gone when Zoe found her body) with one of the sports trophies in his bedroom. No means no, Mrs. Spencer.

Too late for tears, damage is done.

 

 

6. If you piss off Marie Laveau, she’ll not only fuck you up, but extend it to your entire immediate family. Cordelia and Fiona (more on her later) both got very, very bad news from their fertility specialist and plastic surgeon, respectively. Fiona’s was worse, but Cordelia became desperate when she got the news that she would never, ever be able to bear children.  She called up Cornrow City and made an appointment to see Marie Laveau about a voodoo fertility rite/spell they both call the “Pochaut Medicine”. Marie, lounging casually but regally on her really bad-ass throne with her iPad, interrupts her game of solitaire to tell Cordelia that she knows who she is AND knows her mother.  She explains the steps of the spell to a very eager Cordelia. The spell (“Ain’t no picnic for anyone involved”) involves the following steps, according to Marie:

  • Pay her $50,000.00 and wait till the next full moon
  • Bring two ounces of her man’s ‘baby gravy’ in a Mason jar (eccch)
  • Add about ten of Marie’s acolytes dressed in full voodoo garb, including a few with painted skull faces)  to provide various percussion instruments, dance, and help with the goat
  • Toss jar onto fire so it appears to boil, no matter how nasty it looks
  • Take a guinea pepper “hotter than Hades” that has been roasting over hot coals for Marie to eat and swallow whole, the suffering of which will get the god’s attention
  • Two guys will pick up Cordelia and ceremonially lay her down, then pull up her red gown to show her lace underwear
  • Sacrifice some poor goat with a sharp blade–as the jar in the fire cracks open- and let the blood drain over her, specifically below the waist, as the aforementioned goat bleeds out
  • When it’s over Marie will sleep for four days and nights.

There is a 100% success rate, and wh–PSYCH! Marie laughs heartily in Cordelia’s face and tells her she will not do the spell for any amount of money, because “you the daughter of my sworn enemy!” Marie stops laughing long enough to look Cordelia right in the eye to tell her, “She done messed with the wrong witch… and she knows it. And now you know it.

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7.  Queenie is either really lonely, or even braver than we thought, or both.  When Queenie’s new maid, one Delphine LaLaurie, recognizes the monster that Marie Laveau (she calls the Minotaur “Bastian”) has sent her way and actually drops to her knees and beseeches Queenie to save her, Queenie doesn’t toss LaLaurie out the door, yell “SHE’S OVER HERE!” and then slam the door behind the evil bitch and lock all the bolts on the doors and windows.** She cuts Delphine’s hand (rather enthusiastically) to soak up some of her blood on a piece of cloth, then relatively calmly–and a little bit coyly–leads the bull away. She talks softly to the Minotaur. “She told me what you did to her daughter. You just wanted love.”  The more seductive she is, the more the bull seems to calm down, seeming thrown off at first by Queenie’s actions.*** You know, suddenly I’m not that comfortable describing what starts to happen, you saw it, but the scene ends with the Minotaur abruptly lunging at her in a blur (it was probably all FX would let the show get away with, content-wise) and Queenie’s muffled scream of pain. I’m sure that and the scenes with Kyle’s monster mom were kind of awkward to film, and hopefully they didn’t need repeated takes.

Self-preservation: it’s the most primal instinct in the human psyche. So what would it take to make a person disregard their will to survive?

 

8. The new neighbors (moving in next door to the Academy) aren’t any fun–well, the teenage son with his shirt off seemed okay (especially when he blew off Madison and was much more friendly to Nan), but his mother, Joan? Not so much.  “Hell is naked before him and destruction hath no covering,” she quotes to her son when she sees he’s taken his sweat-soaked shirt off while moving boxes. We see her causing serious problems for Fiona ahead. I’m pretty sure she’s down with burning every witch in existence at the stake, even if some of the witches are completely benign.

I wish I was as sweet as you think.

 

9. Joan pisses Madison off so much that we learn she has developed pyrokinesis to go with her telekinesis. After Fiona discovers this, she speedily develops a keen interest in Madison …and what else Madison might be able to do, and takes her out to lunch… and later, for drinks.

It’s a dance, a dance no-one ever had to teach me. A dance I’ve known since I first saw my reflection in my father’s eyes. My partners have been princes and starving artists,  Greek gods and clowns. And every one of them certain they lead. But it’s always my dance. I make the first move, which is no move it all. I’ve always just understood they would eventually find themselves in front of me. Beautiful, primitive animals, their bodies responding to the inevitability of it all. It’s my dance, and I have performed it with finesse and abandon with countless partners. Only the faces change. And all this time …I never suspected the night would come when the dance would end.

-Fiona’s ultimately heartbreaking monologue to her surgeon that kicks off Act One of “The Replacements”

10. Along with learning how desperate both Cordelia and Fiona are when they find out that their bodies have turned on them, we learn Fiona is not only desperate, but deadly.  Almost as soon as they return to the Academy, drunk and laughing, Fiona starts spilling her guts. Madison gets really giddy when Fiona tells her she will be the next Supreme, but not so thrilled when Fiona tells her that she learned recently that she has cancer. All through her. She’ll be dead in a year; Fiona’s life force is pouring out of her and into Madison (who has now stopped smiling).  Madison seems to sober up pretty quick when Fiona blurts out her murder confession (along with other regrets about her past decisions). She learns the hard way what we horror fans already know: when someone –who also appears mentally unstable, including violent mood swings–  confesses to a murder and then points out the murder took place in that very room, right where she’s standing now, right with this same weapon here that they’ve kept all these years? Now would be a good time to get the fuck out of there. Instead Madison starts to freak out (but not run–perhaps making the same mistake as Anna Leigh did in 1971: thinking Fiona wasn’t powerful enough at the time to really hurt her) when Fiona turns panicky as well, her eyes wild, beseeching Madison to kill her for the good of the coven, trying to give her the knife while Madison pushes it away. In the confusion, Madison’s throat is neatly sliced and it’s hard to say who looks more shocked (and suddenly sober) for the silent moment before Madison crumples to the floor.  Dead (and still dead, as of this writing).

This coven doesn’t need a new Supreme.  It needs a new rug.

 

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Stray thoughts:

  • I liked the way the 1971 flashback started with Fiona getting up for a midnight snack of alcohol and pills, regarding the painting of Supreme Anna Leigh, and then flashing to the real thing (in the same hair and dress). Also, that the young Fiona wore a black choker.
  • Dephine’s tearful reaction to seeing on “that magic box” that we have a “Negro” President was priceless.  So was her hiss of “LIIIEEESSSS!” to Fiona when she confirmed it. Kathy Bates is really having fun being on the show.
  • A certain popular recap of “The Replacements” referred to the episode (I think it may have even been the headline of the piece) as “Kink-tastic!” That immediately made me lose respect for the writer and their reviews. No. Not “kink-tastic” (which I assume was their cutesy, lazy way of calling it fantastically kinky). There have been scenes in the history of the series where the characters had kinky fun, but not in this episode. Really? Was it kinky fun when Kyle’s mom sexually abused her son? Do you think that in the preview for the next episode, where we saw Queenie with blood soaking the lower half of her dress, that indicated she had kinky fun? I’m definitely no prude, but that casual attitude made me sick. Still does.
  • I have no idea whether Fiona cutting Madison’s throat was planned, an accident, or a spur-of-the moment thing. For the ‘planned’ argument: We saw a shot of Fiona coldly and deliberately pouring her drink on the floor after she’d watched all the men’s eyes glued to Madison in her white bandage dress as she laughed and got noticeably hammered and played pool. Also, she didn’t exactly shed a tear for Madison; instead she sighed, took the fancy napkin Spalding handed to her (we find out in Episode 4 that he heard the shouting and came down to the Great Room to see what was going on) to wipe the blood from her hands, and calmly told him, “Bury her deep. God knows what all that shit in her body will do to the lawn when it comes up in the spring”, and casually sits down and lights a cigarette before delivering the final line.
    For the “unplanned” argument, Fiona was pretty convincing and insistent that Madison cut her throat like she cut Anna Leigh’s, and seemed shocked when the younger girl suddenly had a cut throat. She also put her hands over it for a moment, maybe to try to stop the bleeding, but that didn’t last long after she saw Spalding standing at the base of the staircase again (and after “Fearful Pranks Ensue,” we know why he helped her–both times.  I finally have come to the conclusion as of this writing –I mean literally, as I was typing this up– that Fiona had good temporary intentions of mentoring Madison as the new Supreme, but things speed up quite a bit unexpectedly after she watched Madison in the bar/pool hall and decided she was being replaced… but after watching the struggle with the knife and Madison refusing to take it, I noticed towards the end Fiona looked more furious than desperate and yelled, “Take it, you stupid girl!” into her face as Madison refused to take it. I think her temper (Fiona did have a really shitty day, worse that Cordelia’s) flared at the last second and got the better of her, then Fiona quickly added together what it would mean and decided it was for the best. “She would have made a lousy Supreme,” Fiona tells Spalding at the start of the following episode (but we’ll cover that next time).
  • Nice touch that when Fiona and Madison were out drinking and Jerry Lee Lewis singing “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going on,” was on the jukebox, the editors decided to leave in that line about “We got the bull by the horns.”  Speaking of which, the half-hand, half-hooves were a clever and creative contribution from whoever did the Creature Design for the Minotaur.
  • Jessica Lange looked more amazing during the final scene in that chic little red dress than she has so far in any scene in the series.

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*Anna Leigh’s response to this is to call young Fiona a “vicious little gash” (damn!) and a “selfish, craven child little child” who will bring the Coven to ruin if she’s allowed to take power.

**Which is probably what I would have done once she told me who she really was Sorry, but I’m not risking my life to try to save the hide of one of the most evil bitches in history. Especially after that comment about how she’d “padlock the icebox and throw away the key” if I was her daughter.

Shit!

Shit!

***Doubt the Minotaur ever had a victim begin to act that way before. “What the hell?  Why isn’t she screaming her head off and flailing around like the other ones do when they see me approach?”

Coming up next, THIS happens in the cold open of “Fearful Pranks Ensue”:

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‘American Horror Story’: Ryan Murphy talks the latest episode ‘Boy Parts’ and Stevie Nicks’ influence on ‘Coven’ — EXCLUSIVE

HOAH!  Don’t miss this post-mortem*! Note that this is EW.com‘s “Exclusive”, not Horror Boom’s – when we re-blog a piece from them (hey, would YOU want to miss their awesome news/interview pieces that are clearly written by a fellow horror –and American Horror Story–fan?), we can’t edit the subject line, or we absolutely would;  we want everyone in the writing and horror community to know that we have a zero-tolerance policy on anything approaching plagiarism**. Now to do more research on ‘The Axe Man’ (hint: check the ‘Related Articles’ below for the casting scoop)–look for our piece on this week’s episode, “Boy Parts” soon. Plus, we’re pretty sure who the threesome Murphy promised us  teased is going to consist of. If you missed the (late) edition we wrote on “Bitchcraft,” check it out here.

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*So to speak…

**But apparently at least this week, an open-door policy on run-on sentences–and this writer (me) has a BA in Creative Writing, plus earns money copy editing and writing. So, decades of experience go out the window sometimes when I get really, really excited about my favorite show currently on TV, which happens to be horror-related. Whattaya gonna do?

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‘American Horror Story’: Lily Rabe talks returning to ‘Coven’ as a Stevie Nicks-obsessed witch

We knew she wasn’t burned at the stake! That was one of the best (and most satisfying) cold opens in a loooong time. Lily Rabe was having a blast, too, we could tell!